~ Great Basin National Park - Day One ~

Turn out the lights and let the stars shine!

One would think a park named Great Basin would be in a depression. Not so. The park lies amid a range of mountains near the Utah border in eastern Nevada. The Great Basin is an area encompassing most all of Nevada, western Utah, and parts of Oregon, California and Idaho. It is called a basin because of its lack of drainage. Any water coming into the area never reaches the oceans. That not used by inhabitants evaporates or seeps into underground springs. Within this area there are hundreds of mountain ranges like the South Snake Range in Great Basin National Park. The southern part of the South Snake Range is the Highland Ridge Wilderness Area. Millions of years ago these ranges would have been islands or reefs in a giant inland sea. They are parallel to one another and run generally north to south.

One of the things I wanted most to see were the Bristlecone Pine trees, which are in the park at higher concentrations than anywhere else. Due to their location and road length restrictions I was not able to see them. However, I would later in my travels.

Visitor Center and the Lower Lehman Creek Campground

Mountains of the Great Basin National Park

What mountains are made of

The Baker Valley from the Visitor Center

Red berries and Lehman Creek, which ran next to my campsite

Not Bristlecone, but tall trees

Lehman Creek which ran right by my campsite

On the right is a marsh at 7500 feet

Me at the campsite and Budder saying, "You're not going to drive again, are you?"

Lehman Caves

My first event was to take the Lehman Caves Tour. "The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time." -Henry David Thoreau

Lehman Caves is a beautiful marble cave ornately decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations.

"Discovered" on 1885 by Absalom Lehman, a rancher and miner, this cavern is one of the most profusely decorated caves in the region. Discovered is in quotes for two reasons. American Indians knew of the existence of the cave for hundreds of years prior to the "discovery." Also the caves were "discovered" when Lehman's horse stepped into a hole and broke through the cave ceiling. As a miner, his first thought was "Gold!" But there was no mineral gold, but Lehman turned his cave into another kind of gold by chatging others $1.00 for twenty-four hours in the cave. In addition to the unguided tour, they could keep whatever they could carry out. Access to the cave then was by rope through the opening in the roof. Not easy to get much out, but two and three hundred pound stalactites were removed. Lehman became fairly wealthy through his cave tours.

Park Ranger, Kelly Carroll, who took us on the tour of Lehman Caves

Some of the red is iron oxide in the calcite, while other is caused by the lighting.

When water drips from the stalactites and hits someone, it is called a "cave kiss." You can watch the water drip, but it takes a very long time to form a drop large enough to fall. In the two detail photos on the right and below left I have circled the drops, which may or may not be ready to fall.
The water comes down from within the stalactites, like coming through a straw, because it is seeping through the rocks. I did not get a cave kiss.

Some of these formations, like these helictites on the left, seem to defy gravity and grow at all different orientations.

These round formations are called shields. They consist of two circular or oval rock sheets or plates under great pressure connected like a clam shell.
There are over 300 shields in Lehman Cavees, which is a rather small cave. Scientists have mixed controversial theories about why Lehman has so many and how they are formed.
Below left is the Angel Wing Shield.

Above is the Lake Room. During periods of rain and snow melt it fills with water. Some water is visible in the left photo.

Above right and below left are photos of what makes Lehman Caves famous, the Parachute Shield. If you search for Lehman Caves or see a brochure, this formation will be pictured. It is an amazing formation.

Night Shots

It gets really dark at Great Basin National Park. A ranger told me it's one of the top ten darkest places in the Lower 48. I played with my camera settings and got these shots of the night sky and stars.

The left photo is a star at 26X zoom. The original is a bit smaller, but I made about 50% larger to show the detail.

There are about thirty stars in the photo on the left. They are really hard to see in this small image. On the right is Budder stargazing. Not really. He's looking for birds around the campsite. THe next day he would see wild turkeys.

Music is "Nights in White Satin"

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